— Agha Shahid Ali reading “Of It All”
My upbringing in Madras in the late 1980s and 90s led me to picnics in the beautiful country that dotted Enid Blyton’s books – just as it did many children of my generation and the generations before me. The Famous Five and The Secret Seven offered a generous serving of scones, marmalade, pears, fresh cream, crumpets and whatnot… And like any self-respecting EB-reading child, I nurtured a not-so-secret yearning to eat scones at tea one day.
When I finally tried them, surprisingly later in life, at a charming café in Madras, I was utterly disappointed. Perhaps it was the weight of all that expectation, perhaps I wasn’t a scone person, I could never figure out which.
Scones disappointed me, but I kept looking for food in my books. As I grew up and my taste took a turn towards writers closer to home, and to cultures similar to mine, I not only enjoyed local tastes in my mouth as I savoured the words that leapt out of the pages, but also actual dishes. That’s when it hit me: food, just like books, was political; perhaps that’s why we vacillate from wanting books banned to foods banned, once every few months here.